Anchor Small Beer | Anchor Brewing Company

326 Reviews
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Anchor Small BeerAnchor Small Beer

Brewed by:
Anchor Brewing Company
California, United States

Style: English Bitter

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 3.30%

Availability: Year-round

Notes / Commercial Description:
"We believe you will find Anchor Small Beer delicious--similar to what modern brewers call a "bitter"--and we hope you will also enjoy the idea of reviving an ancient brewing tradition, which is something of great importance. "

"We make our Old Foghorn Barleywine Style Ale from the rich first runnings of an all-malt mash, and Anchor Small Beer is our attempt to duplicate the "small beers" of old by sparging that same mash: sprinkling warm water over the Old Foghorn mash after the first wort has run off, thereby creating a second, lighter brew from the resulting thinner wort. "

Added by UnionMade on 11-11-2000

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Reviews: 326 | Ratings: 450
Photo of Mdog
3.51/5  rDev +12.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Appearance: Clear gold, good head.

Smell: Light bread, light tea aroma.

Taste: Starts with a little bread, then lots of tea-flavored bitterness.

Drinkability: If the price was lower, this would be a good alternative to BMC lawnmower beers.

For a pale ale this was not very good, but if you consider it a mild or a bitter it is pretty decent. I'm not a big fan of tea-like bitterness but it worked in this beer. Just don't go in thinking APA or you will be disappointed.

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Photo of loving44
3.46/5  rDev +10.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured into a pint glass from the standard 1pint 6oz bottle.

I have been wanting to try this beer for quite some time, and i have been drinking a lot of lower ABV beers as of late so i thought it would be a good time to give this one a try.

A: pours a light copper/amber with a think fluffy white head.

S: toasted grain, bread dough, bread yeast, slight citrus.

T: I'm trying to judge this by other bitters I have had, but in actuality it's a "small beer" brewed as an afterthought to Old Foghorn. It's completely dependent on the Old Foghorn recipe, and as such only so much "craft" can be put into a beer like this. Most of the sugars have been washed away for th barley wine so all that's left is a grainy, slightly astringent flavor, slightly sour with hints of citrus and citrus rind. the hop addition kills any residual sweetness left in the malt. It's not bad per se, just tastes like a really watered down barley wine as you might expect. Seeing as it's made from garbage... not too shabby,

M: light and dry with persistent carbonation.

D: very drinkable, it's light, dry, has a pleasant flavor that's reminiscent of sourdough. Hardly any alcohol in this, so if you're looking for an alternative to your regular non-alcoholic brew then this is a great choice.

Waste not, want not! Thanks for brewing this one Anchor. if it were in a different packaging I might consider buying it more often for bbq's and such. Worth a try folks!

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Photo of scottfrie
3.2/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

22oz bottle into SN hop pint glass.

A: Pours a citrus golden color with an incredible, thick, chunky, rocky, billowing white head that took its sweet time to die down into a thick film that left chunks and sheets of sticky lacing down the side of the glass.
S: Very light notes of spicy hops, dry grain, light carmamely malt, and earthy tones.
T: Very light flavors. Earthy grains dominate with a slight sweetness from the underlying malt. Hops are mild and lend a touch of bitter/sour citrus feel. Aftertaste is a tad off-putting.
M: Light body with a dry grainy mouthfeel. A little on the watery side.
D: A very drinkable, sessionable beer. Nothing spectacular in the flavor department, and a very light pale ale, but I respect how they made it and I wouldn't mind drinking this again.

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Photo of Reagan1984
4.15/5  rDev +33%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Always wanted to try this beer from understanding the historical significance of the method (style)

Poured with a fluffy whipped egg white head. While the head was about a finger plus thick initially, it settled to a very thin cap over time. The beer was a light amber color with no visible carbonation. The glass was splattered with a decent amount of lacing.

Aroma was fresh with a combination of lightly toasted malt, bread dough and an ever so slightly floral hop aroma.

I have to say that I really enjoy this beer. My first thought on how to describe the taste was to put. "It tastes like Beer!" It does, just a classic beer flavor. Very bread like with a nice fruit background. The grain seems to shine through with a nice balance brought about by the bread tones and the light presence of hops. I think the level of bitterness is spot on for the flavor profile and mouth feel.

Beer has light carbonation and a fairly light body.

Immensely drinkable and obviously the definition of a session beer. I knew the scores were a bit low for this beer, but I still wanted to try it. I am so happy I did. I enjoyed this and it certainly has it's time and place.

I wonder how much of the scoring here is due to folks preconceived notions of a lower abv beer. We'll never know, but I think this is quite a nice beer.

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Photo of htomsirveaux
3.38/5  rDev +8.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

22 oz. bottle tried 13 Feb 2010.

Poured this in an Avery shaker pint. Large lacy white head. Well carbonated but flat on the tongue. Clear golden orange color. Light aroma, a bit of malt, caramel and earthy dry cider. Has a vegetal bitterness, dry to start. Finishes with just a touch of yeast and caramel. Medium body.

Decent but not on par with Anchor's other offerings.

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Photo of riored4v
3.76/5  rDev +20.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Reviewed on 5/5/10

Poured into a pint glass. Clear amber, 2 finger, fluffy, off-white head with good lacing.

Smell was malty with sime slight hoppiness that was a bit fruity. Slight caramel.

Taste was very light and crisp with a mild maltiness backed by a mellow bitterness. Earthy and fruity flavors present from the hops. Had a weird metallic tinge in the finish that was a bit "off".

Mouthfeel was light body, high carbonation and crisp finish.

Drinkability overall was good, despite the metallic finish. Very mellow all around. Easy session beer.

Overall it was a good/decent beer and pretty much what I was expecting. Snice, small, mellow, sessionable beer.

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Photo of KTCamm
2.94/5  rDev -5.8%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Poured from the 500 ml (or so) bottle into a wine glass - not ideal glassware but best option in the hotel room.

Pours a brownish amber with thick head of white foam. Lots of lacing observed. Malty smell, but something a bit off. Its not skunked, but the breadiness borders on moldy. Taste is very light malt, backed by a stiff hop. The hop pushes its way around a bit too much for my palate and the residual taste is bitterness - which lingers long after.

An ok beer. Love the concept and the idea, just does not result in something memorable.

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Photo of bluejacket74
2.64/5  rDev -15.4%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

22 ounce bottle. Served in a nonic pint glass, the beer pours a dark gold color with an inch frothy white head. Both head retention and lacing are good. Aroma is grassy hops and some bready malt. The aroma is very light overall. Taste is just like the aroma, but also has a lingering bitter finish. Unfortunately it's not a good type of bitter taste, there seems to be something a bit off about it. Mouthfeel/body is light, and it's also crisp and a bit dry. Drinkability isn't great, I can finish this bottle but I wouldn't want any more than that. Not impressed with this one, and I won't buy this again anytime soon. But it was still nice to try it anyway.

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Photo of MNJR
3.21/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Anchor weighed down a bit...

Very dry, astringent flavor dominates this otherwise decent beer. The color is bright, the carbonation is very sturdy with larger bubbles than normal. It would be downright refreshing if not for the corn husk and aluminum flavors that are not counterbalanced or minimized by anything else. This should really be Anchor saying, "Hey, we're introducing a budget beer." Sell this for a couple bucks a bomber bottle, nothing more? But, the price is the same as anything else they offer. This is the only Anchor product I've tried that wasn't excellent or at least close to excellent. I hesitate to say it's not good, but the Anchor name doesn't need this weighing it down. But, I already said that.

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Photo of brownbeer
3.4/5  rDev +9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours a very transparent, light amber color.

The aroma is of faint English hops. It's earthy with a hint of lemon and subtle graininess.

The taste is gone before it hits. Soft grains and tea in the flavor. Clean and inoffensive, it finishes on a nicely crisp, bitter note.Let it warm up and a little more flavor is coaxed out.

I'm on board with low abv beers, like this one, that are priced right. But even in the world of English Bitters, which is where I would catagorize this taste-wise, it still doesn't stand out a whole lot. That being said, it's a worthy beer.

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Photo of thetomG
2.7/5  rDev -13.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Girlfriend had a tasting of this one when she visited the brewery out in San Fran, liked it and picked up a bottle at a shop here in Chicago. Sipping on a pour from that bottle right now...

Its a very clear golden color with some smallish white foamy head that dissipates quite quickly. The aroma has a malty hay-like aspect to it. Taste is a bit bland for on my palate with some mild bitterness in the finish, but I suppose for the style it could be considered adequate.

Overall I'm not a fan of this one and would most likely not seek it out again.

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Photo of mdwalsh
2.7/5  rDev -13.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Not sure on the freshness of this beer, but it's in a large 22 oz classic anchor shaped bottle.

A: Pours a big billowy head, as high as 5 fingers, and settling around three. It's white with bubbles of all shapes and sizes in there. The head has TONS of texture as I keep it filled to the tip top of the glass, sticking at times almost an inch over the top. The beer is an amber/golden with pretty good carbonation. I'd say this is a pretty attractive beer.

S: Unfortunately, that does not extend to the aroma. I get a beer that has maybe been slightly skunked, though a thorough examination reveals there's definitely some hops left to this guy. But mostly nothing that I want to keep shoving my nose into. It's sort of grassy and a little dank, but also a bad solventy aroma. If this were subtle, it might be ok, but this is strong.

T: And sadly, that sticks with it in the taste. Very similar, and very thin. This might be refreshing on a very hot day, but overall, it's pretty yucky. Still grassy, in a bad way. And solventy/skunky. But it is less intense than the aroma.

M: Thin and watery, the carbonation faded pretty fast surprisingly. However, for this sort of beer, and what I would want from it, that's sort of alright.

D: BLAHDICK no. I won't be getting this one again. It goes down easy enough, like a BMC.

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Photo of meeekyh
3.8/5  rDev +21.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

I thought this was in interesting beer style to try. I also find it interesting that the beer is 'barley legal' here in Colorado in that at only 3.3% ABV it just crosses the threshold of legal to sell in actual beer/liquor stores.

The beer is a deep golden color, honey may be a better description, with little head and the lacing is not great.

Smells are a bit burnt and a bit grassy and there is not apparently a lot more to it than that.

The taste is clean. There is grainy goodness and a bit of bitterness. A peppery note creeps into the finish along with straw and grassy tastes. It is a lot fuller in the mouth than the nose.

Mouthfeel is light but not insignificant making for a rather refreshingly clean beer.

Overall I like this beer. It is full without being a big beer At 3.3 ABV I find it hard to imagine a more appropriate session beer with similar alcohol content ans 1/2 the flavor. Though there is Stone Levitation at 4.4% which has about twice the flavor.

Good beer and interesting.


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Photo of BeerFMAndy
2.45/5  rDev -21.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

22 oz bottle poured into a Sierra Nevada imperial pint. (something that looks like a backwards ?)JP stamped on the back label.

A - Tons of carbonation streams up from the nucleation point to a puffy off-white head of almost three-fingers. Good retention and clumpy lace above a totally clear golden yellow beer.

S - Unfortunately I don't think a Euro-style lager skunk smells is supposed to be present in this beer so it could be light-struck but otherwise I get a low American hop nose with a very small bit of maltiness. Rather shy nose.

T - Wow. This is very unusual. Lots of grassy, grainy, husky flavor with an incredibly dry finish. Lots of rice too. The hops are floral and herbal but light in presence.

M - Light-bodied and very crisp from abounding carbonation, Small Beer has an incredibly dry finish and a very low hop bitterness.

D - I'm heading to the brewery in a month-and-a-half so I'd love to get a fresh bottle of this. Right now though it's not going over so well.

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Photo of UCLABrewN84
2.46/5  rDev -21.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

1 pt. 6 fl. oz. bottle into a nonic pint glass.

A - Pours a light orange opaque color with less than an inch head that fades to a small cap. Decent lacing is present as beer is drunk.

S - All I could smell out of this beer was a metallic grainy odor.

T - Tastes like it smells. Weird bitterness that is almost medicinal and metallic at the same time.

M - To me this was a very watery and somewhat flat beer.

D - Not too good. I have been wanting to try this one for some time and I finally picked up a bottle, but I don't think that I will ever buy this again. It is just too weak and medicinal tasting to me.

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Photo of Mora2000
3.5/5  rDev +12.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

The beer pours a very clear yellow with a white head. The aroma is corn and wheat. Very macro like. The aroma is corn with some very light hops, wheat and possibly some light skunking. Thin mouthfeel and medium carbonation. Anchor makes some great beers but this is not one of them.

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Photo of bort11
3.21/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

I have been wanting to try this for some time. I am fascinated by the process of making a second beer from the leftover mash of a larger beer. Anchor uses the mash from Old Foghorn barleywine.

Traditional Anchor bowling pin shaped 22 oz bottle. It's a tiny label compared to the size of the bottle, unique contrast. Poured into an 8 oz Old Rasputin glass. I figure, small beer, small glass. Good head, taking up 1/8 of the glass. Off white lacing is spotty. Body color is a hazy golden yellow.

Smell is grainy, and slightly astringent aroma. Hops come in a little harsh and grassy. Taste is also astringent and bitter. There doesn't seem to be enough malt to keep a balance, which I think is kind of the point.

Mouthfeel is light and watery. If there was a little more malt balance, it would improve the drinkability. If I had to become a light beer drinker, I think I would go this route instead of light lagers. Luckily I don't have to.

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Photo of largadeer
3.56/5  rDev +14.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Hazy copper in the glass, topped by a thick frothy white head that looks almost nitro-esque in density. Head retention is unusually good, making for a beautiful and inviting beer. It smells of toffee, stonefruit, plum and faint indistinguishable hops. Light but flavorful on the tongue, the toffee flavor carries through along with a bit of dried fruit, grain, earthy hop flavor and a metallic twang. The body is light and crisp and bitterness is ample. Pretty tasty for a second runnings beer, though it probably won't thrill you.

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Photo of BrewerB
2.71/5  rDev -13.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2

Poured from a 22oz bomber into my favorite Firestone Walker nonic pint glass. Picked it up at the Whole Foods on 4th street in SF for around $3.29.

A - Pale golden color, excellent clarity. Thin off-white head didn't hold it's shape for long but persisting atop the beer. Moderate lacing left behind.

S - Moderate bread dough/grainy aroma with some light floral/perfumy hops beneath.

T - Mostly picking up on malts. Slightly salty (unexpected), with a very dry, moderately bitter finish. Searching for hops and finding some floral traces in the background.

M - Medium-light in body, moderate carbonation. Not astringent. Smooth.

D - My first bottle of this beer left me underwhelmed and disappointed. Especially given this brewery's reputation. I thought I'd revisit it with a more focused palette in hopes of greater appreciation.

I realize it's a small/session beer made from the 2nd runnings of a barleywine. But I'd still like more hop character along with less dominance from the malts. Will gladly finish the bottle but unlikely to ever order this beer again.

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Photo of drabmuh
3.34/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

I am not reviewing this beer to style, I am reviewing it for the novelty of it being made from the second runnings of the Old Foghorn grains. I don't know if this is suppose to be an APA, I'll review it as a "small beer."

Beer served in a goblet. Beer is clear and almost amber in color. Forms a white to off white head of medium and small bubbles. Carbonation is low and there is some but not a lot of lacing on the glass. Beer looks really good.

There is a cereal aroma that is reminiscent of a bad lager, but this is understandable if you know the process of how this beer comes to being.

Beer is light in body and has an aftertaste of cereal grain. There is a bitterness about it that is not pleasant unfortunately. It tastes a lot like grainy water. The aftertaste fades quickly. Its almost like an ale made with a lager yeast. I wonder if the off flavors from the grain are associated with the second running style of preparation of the wort. Second taste, second taste was better but that aftertaste is still there. Its interesting but not great.

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Photo of wknight167
2.59/5  rDev -17%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

Apearance - Pours a light golden amber with a 2 finger cloud like head with good retention and lacing.

Nose- Grainy malt with the faintest hint of hops.

Palate- Grainy, dry and slightly tannic, for lack of a better word. Citrus hops are barely present, but there is a decent bitterness level.

Mouthfeel- Active, medium carbonation and medium-thin body.

Drinkability- I have no desire for another.

Overall- An interesting idea, but not so interesting a beer.

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Photo of nrpellegrini
3.23/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Poured from a 22oz bottle to a pint glass.

Golden color but not weak and thin looking, more rich appeal. Head was huge, at least 2 fingers and continued to rise, stayed the entire drink. Not much to pick up from the nose, sweet smells. Taste was crisp and smooth with a bitter finish at the end which left a sour taste in the mouth. The flavor wasn't that bad but I wish it finished smoother. This one went down easy, I paired it was seafood and it worked well.

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Photo of LilBeerDoctor
3.26/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Reviewed on 09/05/2009. Bottle. The beer pours a clear light orange with a thick, foamy white head. Aroma of bready malt, sweat and floral hops. Flavor of bready/cardboardy malt, floral hops. A little bland, but it is not too bad considering the %abv.

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Photo of KyleMWood
2.22/5  rDev -28.8%
look: 4 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 2.5

Strange beer, not what I expected at all when I ordered it. VERY VERY dry. Also, an off smell that wasn't appealing. However, very drinkable, it could be a session beer if it actually had better flavor and smell, not much there (as the name suggests). I like the idea, but I don't think Anchor pulled it off.

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Photo of BeardedBoffin
3.53/5  rDev +13.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A gold beer tinged with with a copper glow. Decent head hovered overhead and stayed around. A malt aroma shines through with earthy notes and a touch of hops. Mouthfeel is light and carbonated.

The flavor profile begins with grain-like malt which gives way to hoppy bitterness. A little earthiness appears just after halfway as well. This is not a complex beer, but is drinkable and a solid session ale.

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Anchor Small Beer from Anchor Brewing Company
3.12 out of 5 based on 450 ratings.
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